Who are the founders of M-Pesa? The story goes of how an enterprising Kenyan invented the revolutionary money transfer service and shared the idea with Safaricom and Kencell (now Airtel). According to MPESA self proclaimed historians, it was the former telcos that literally grabbed the concept, actualized it and patented it leaving the ‘innovator’ high and dry. So who is the Kenyan touted to have invented this multi-billion mobile banking concept?
Nyagaka Anyona Ouko M-Pesa innovator
Claims that Vodafone stole the M-Pesa idea are in vogue with the most blogged about being the case of one Nyagaka Anyona Ouko. According to an article that appeared on the now defunct HumanIPO website, Nyagaka came up with idea in 2002 when he urgently needed to send his ailing mother money in his rural village. The man who credits himself with the innovation says the idea was borne after he found the available money transfer services (Money Order or Express Money Order) extremely inconveniencing: He told HumanIPO: “The only legal way of sending money by then was through the use of Money Order or Express Money Order which were being offered by the Postal Corporation of Kenya. However those methods required that my mother had to travel some distance to pick up the money. I also had to find time and travel to the local post office where I could do the transaction.” His other option was to send money by bus which meant he had to hang around buses plying the Kisii route in the hope that he could find a fellow village who he could entrust with the money.
Then he came with the novel idea of sending his mother airtime which she could convert it to money. He arranged with a shopkeeper in his village who he would occasionally send airtime and he would give Nyagaka’s mother cash after deducting 10 percent administration fee.
Expanding his business
With the success in his village Nyagaka claimed he started setting agents in Kisumu, Kisii, Nairobi and Nakuru.
Certificate from the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO)
The ‘innovator’ claims he tried to patent the money Transfer System from way back in 2003 but it was not until 2013 when he was issued a certificate from KECOBO. The certificate reads in part:
“It is hereby certified that a Copyright Work in the LITERARY category entitled MOBILE CASH TRANSFER and numbered KCB 011146 has been registered in the name of NYAGAKA ANYONA OUKO of Nairobi.”
Founders Are British
While most Kenyans would want to believe M-Pesa is a homegrown idea, facts stubbornly state otherwise. The fathers of M-Pesa, if we are to do away with Nyagaka’s version, are Nick Hughes and Paul Makin. It was Hughes who pitched the concept to Vodafone bigwigs who were impressed by the novel idea and gave £1 million funding to match a similar amount given by the British Government’s Department for International Development to conceptualize the idea. Hughes told Financial Standard of his innovation: “Success has a thousand fathers. I know we piloted this and turned it into a business plan and eventually into M-Pesa. Today, I hear people I have never heard of put claim on this product.”
Company that Developed The Concept
Kenyans had to do very little with the conceptualizing the M-PESA idea. Sagentia, a British company, was commissioned to develop the idea into what it is today.
Michael Joseph-Former Safaricom CEO
The former Safaricom CEO is credited with making M-PESA the success story it is. Makin said of the Michael Joseph contribution: “A big one. Wouldn’t have happened without him. He made sure SF (Safaricom) worked with us, and worked with Nick to get it through VF (Vodafone).”
Here is the list of founders of the money transfer system:
Nick Hughes-British national
Paul Makin-British National
Susie Lonie-British national
Those who actualized M-Pesa
Michael Joseph-South African national
Owners: Vodafone UK is the majority shareholder. Next